- darkometer rating: 4 -
Kind of a cross between a cave and an underground bunker in Kirkenes
, northern Norway
. It was built/dug during the occupation of the country by Germany
and used for the protection of the local population in the countless air raids that more or less destroyed the town in the war until it was liberated by the Soviets
. Today you can visit parts of the tunnel system and view a short film about the war history of Kirkenes.
>More background info
>What there is to see
>Access and costs
>Combinations with other dark destinations
>Combinations with non-dark destinations
More background info:
for general background info about Kirkenes and its role in WWII see its own entry here
The name may suggest a natural cave ('grotta' in Norwegian), but it is in fact an artificial tunnel system hewn into the rock under Kirkenes and further fortified with reinforced-concrete girders and entrances. It was built (or rather commissioned) by the Germans in 1941 during the occupation of Norway
quite probably using POW
Apart from storage and military protection this underground system proved vital for the local populace in 1944 when Kirkenes became the target of hundreds of Allied (mainly Soviet
) air raids. This was because Kirkenes was a kind-of staging post for Nazi Germany
's ambitions to capture Murmansk
over the border in Russia
to cut off the vital Atlantic
Convoy supply route of the Allies.
In the end, most of the town was destroyed in those air raids and almost everything that was still left standing was then burned down by the retreating German troops as part of their usual scorched earth policy. Only a couple of old houses survived. One of them can be found just down the road from the Andersgrotta entrance up Presteveien. Everything else was rebuilt after the war.
During the Cold War
era the underground bunker system was again useful, though it's doubtful if it really could have served as a nuclear bunker, as some sources claim. For that it's not really deep enough down in the rock.
In any case, since it was opened to the public in the 1990s, the Andersgrotta has become one of the rather few tourist attractions that Kirkenes
can claim to have (another is the Grenselandsmuseet
– also of interest to the dark tourist). Most visitors are thus hardly dedicated dark tourists, but mainstream tourists who take in the odd darkly historic site. Ironically, since it is mostly tourists arriving on the popular Hurtigruten boats (Kirkenes is the terminus of that famous line), the largest proportion of these are (again) from Germany
What there is to see:
not an awful lot, really. The guided tour part of the visit is rather short. You are led down the steps into the underground shelter ... passing underneath a Norwegian flag (so no doubt about the patriotic significance of this place!). There you can see some reconstructed wooden shed-like rooms like those the local people had when seeking refuge down here in WWII
air raids of Kirkenes
. A few photos illustrate this further.
Otherwise the tunnels are almost bare – save for a few bits and pieces of equipment (mostly contemporary – such as mobile heaters) and some old cracked loos. One tunnel leading further on would have led to another (now locked) bunker entrance, but you'd need a torch to get there as it is beyond the part with electric lights.
At one tunnel intersection stands a polished stone in which the Norwegian king's signature is engraved. And that would be more or less it, if it wasn't for the main commodification here: the film.
This is a short documentary (of ca. 15 minutes if I remember correctly) about Kirkenes and the region in WWII and the role Andersgrotta played for the local people. It can be played in Norwegian, English or German. Since the majority in the group when I visited were in fact Germans, this was the obvious language choice. So I can't comment on the quality of the English soundtrack. Given its brevity, the film can only be an illustrative enhancement of the underground experience, but naturally can't provide all that much depth of information.
The guides, who like most Norwegians speak good English (but not necessarily any German or other foreign languages), don't actually have much to say, but you can ask questions while the group is poking around the cave for a bit before re-emerging into the daylight.
Round the corner a few steps up Hagansveien and then straight across on Teller Dahls Gate you can find another former entrance to the bunker system, now locked. It's the same one that you can vaguely see from inside underground in the furthest part of the accessible "cave" system. From here you can see the Russian war memorial just up the hill on Roald Amundsen Gate – see under Kirkenes
on Presteveien street just a short walk from the centre of Kirkenes
on the corner of Hagansveien.
Access and costs: very restricted opening times, quite expensive for what little you get to see.
Details: the place as such is not hard to find, you just have to walk up Presteveien, which branches off the central town square … but the main issue is timing it right, as the opening times of this place are quite restricted.
Access is by guided tour only, and these start two or three times a day at 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. or 1 p.m., as well as possibly at 3 p.m. – information about starting times, especially with regard to the second and third tour (some sources don't list a third one at all), seems to vary a bit so it may be a good idea to check locally beforehand and be at the entrance well in time for one of the morning tours preferably. That's what I did.
Admission: 100 NOK
Even in summer it is cold down in the underground of Kirkenes (only ca. 5 degrees Celsius), so remember to bring appropriate layers of clothes.
Time required: not long, only half an hour in total (including the film).
Combinations with other dark destinations:
see under Kirkenes
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
see under Kirkenes
- Andersgrotta 1 - entrance
- Andersgrotta 2 - descent into local patriotism
- Andersgrotta 3 - underground shacks
- Andersgrotta 4 - tunnels
- Andersgrotta 5 - Harald left a signature
- Andersgrotta 6 - reinforced
- Andersgrotta 7 - mostly empty
- Andersgrotta 8 - film in three language options
- Andersgrotta 9 - another bunker entrance